Fab fall flavors: reviewing allergen-free seasonal snacks


Collage made by Emma Riddell using images provided by Emma Riddell or sourced from product websites.

Fall is a great time for snacks (hello Halloween candy coma!), but it can be tough for people with food allergies. foodallergy.org is a great resource and a fantastic place to find recommendations and recipes for tasty seasonal treats to fit any dietary needs.

The flavors associated with fall foods are some of the most comforting yet controversial in American food culture. From mid-August to Thanksgiving, grocery stores are inundated with fall-themed treats in every flavor from the omnipresent pumpkin spice to more underrated ingredients like ginger and butternut squash. 

However, the fall snack craze can make those with food allergies and dietary restrictions feel even more isolated. As a gluten and dairy free person myself, I decided to scour the internet, social media and my local Target for fall-themed snacks free of the top nine allergens (with one exception). I evaluated each treat on a scale of one to ten based on taste, appearance and accessibility. I also gave each snack a score based on how “allergen-free” it tasted, that is, how comparable I believe it would be to a similar snack made with allergen-containing ingredients. 

See below for my full assessments and pick up one or two at the store next time a fall-flavor craving hits!


1. Annie’s Vegan Red Lentil Spirals with Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Sauce

This mac and cheese alternative is one of the best foods I think I’ve ever had. It’s packed with protein from the red lentils but is also USDA Organic, gluten free and free of the top nine allergens. It’s creamy and comforting with a delicious and subtle squash flavor. I loved that the pasta had a really great texture and cooked perfectly in just three minutes. The only downsides are that this version of Annie’s pasta can be a little tricky to find and will cost more than “regular” boxed mac and cheese like Kraft. 

Taste:     10/10      Appearance:     8/10      Accessibility:   5 /10      Comparability:    9/10


2. Enjoy Life Soft-baked Monster Cookies

These cookies are Enjoy Life’s standard soft cookie base with cinnamon, oats, mini chocolate chips and colorful candies mixed in. When I tried them, I felt they promised a bit more than they delivered. The cookies I tasted were dense and dry, with very little of the aforementioned mixed-ins or any discernible flavor aside from “sweet.” The scant chocolate candies I did find were of a weird grayish color, certainly not the the bright hues promised on the box. I give Enjoy Life props for expanding their school-safe product line with this offering, but I think it’s best left on the shelf.

Taste:    3 /10      Appearance:   4  /10      Accessibility:   7 /10      Comparability:    3/10


3. Lärabar Gingerbread (Contains tree nuts)

Full disclosure, I’m generally not a big fan of date and nut-based snack bars. I find their texture to be off-putting and their flavors too subtle to overpower the cloying sweetness of dates. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this seasonal offering from Lärabar. Although it was rather small, the bar’s dense, chewy format paired well with its warm spices and ginger-forward notes. It was pleasantly chewy with a few chunks of nuts. Lärabars are widely available and generally more budget-friendly than comparative ¨healthy¨ snack bars like RX Bars or Kind Bars, so I think this seasonal snack is ideal for people looking for a sweet, plant-based, on-the-go snack. 

Taste:    8 /10      Appearance:     6/10      Accessibility:    8/10      Comparability:    8/10


4. Oat Haus Pumpkin Spice Granola Butter

Before I researched snack foods for this review, I had no idea granola butter was a thing; it seems that it’s a pretty new concept that’s still relatively niche. After trying this seasonal flavor from Oat Haus, though, I think it should have no problems going mainstream. According to the Oat Haus’s website, their concept was to create a delicious, school-safe alternative to nut butter, and in my opinion, they’ve succeeded massively. The pumpkin spice flavor is not too sweet and has a good balance of spices and a pleasantly grainy yet smooth texture. I tried it on its own but I think it would be great on waffles, ice cream or anything pumpkin-flavored. I give it bonus points for being low in sugar and whole-foods based, but since it is only available through the Oat Haus website or a select few stores, it can be pretty tricky to find. 

Taste:    10 /10      Appearance:    8 /10      Accessibility:   2 /10      Comparability:    N/A


5. Sillycow Farms Pumpkin Spice Hot Cocoa Mix

Swiss Miss fans beware: there’s a new hot cocoa contender in town. Sillycow Farms’ line of hot cocoa mixes are all gluten and top-nine allergen free and processed in an allergen-free facility. What the mix lacks in dairy and artificial additives it makes up for in delicious cocoa-y goodness with notes of pumpkin spice that cut through the rich cocoa and balance the flavors. Plus, it comes in a jar and not individual packets so it’s easy to control how sweet you want your cocoa to be. It’s not quite as instant as the mixes of “regular” hot cocoa because one’s milk-alternative of choice has to be heated separately on the stovetop; overall, I felt that this mix made for a cozy, comforting fall drink great for any chilly outside fall activity. 

Taste:   9  /10      Appearance:    8 /10      Accessibility:   7 /10      Comparability:    10/10


6. Veggie Chips Ghosts and Bats Sea Salt flavor

While most potato chips and chip-type snacks are made without allergy-containing ingredients, Veggie Chips’ parent brand Sensible Portions goes the extra mile to manufacture their snacks in a gluten-free facility without artificial flavors and preservatives. These chips reminded me of the mini bags of Halloween-shaped pretzels I used to get when trick-or-treating. I thought that this snack provided the salty, crunchy goodness of regular veggie chips in fun fall shapes. They would be perfect for handing-out to trick-or-treater’s without fear of leaving out gluten-free or kids or those with allergies. 

Taste:    9 /10      Appearance:    10 /10      Accessibility:    9/10      Comparability:    7/10


7. Yum Earth Giggles 

When I first saw these organic, Skittles dupes made with all natural dyes and free of allergens, I was pretty skeptical; “normal” Skittles are my all-time favorite candy. I was genuinely surprised by how much I loved these. They came in a “fun size” individual package and the candies had intense, fruity flavors and a nice contrast between the extra-crunchy shell and soft candy center. The all-natural colors on the candy shells are less vibrant than Skittles, but I wasn’t bothered by that.  I’ll be stocking up on these for sure; I located them in several stores’ seasonal aisles but I’ve never seen them outside the Halloween season.

Taste:    9 /10      Appearance:     8/10      Accessibility:   6 /10      Comparability:   9 /10